In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gardens

  • Introduction
  • Broad Histories of European and World Gardens
  • Gardens in Medieval Europe
  • Renaissance Gardens in France
  • Renaissance Gardens in Britain
  • Baroque Gardens in Europe
  • Philosophical Ideas about Gardens in the Seventeenth Century
  • Baroque Gardens in Italy
  • Baroque Gardens in Britain
  • Baroque Gardens in the Netherlands
  • Baroque Gardens in Germany, Austria, Russia, Spain, and Belgium
  • Chinese Gardening and the West
  • The Transition from Formal into Landscape Gardening in Britain

Renaissance and Reformation Gardens
Joseph Manca
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0530


Gardening in the West flourished in classical antiquity, especially during the time of the Roman Empire, but went into decline during the earlier Middle Ages. Revived along with other cultural forms, fine gardening, created in a great range of size and styles, became a highly important art form during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance through the early eighteenth century, the time period covered by this bibliography. The word garden, and its equivalent in other languages, could refer to a purely utilitarian place for growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, or flowers, or to a botanical garden for scientific exposition and learning. The publications listed in this bibliography focus on aestheticized gardens, and the use of the word garden here will, unless otherwise qualified, always connote that broadly artistic meaning. We are mostly concerned with broader issues of design than with the character of individual plantings. A fine garden, sometimes called a pleasure garden, was intended as a place of beauty, and is distinguished by the inclusion of such niceties as fountains, statuary, canals, outbuildings, parterres, gravel paths, grassy lawns, and hedges. During the several centuries before the eighteenth century, European gardens comprised formal features such as rows of trees and bushes, geometric arrangements around center points, and such unnatural features as topiary (clipped and shaped plantings). Within such overall calculated formalism, both subtle and obvious changes occurred over time. In the early eighteenth century, with the English taking the lead from the Italians and the French, formal aspects gave way to a new kind of natural gardening, called landscape gardening. This bibliography extends forward to the cusp of the introduction of landscape gardening design. Gardening is the only kind of art that cannot travel or that one cannot move to another site. In part for that reason, many garden writers have taken special pride in their national traditions. Following the geographical specificity of gardens and the national divisions that have arisen in scholarly discussions, the lists here are arranged for the most part by nation within the categories of chronology and style. The bibliographies cover regions across Europe, with most emphasis on the taste-making centers of Italy, France, and Britain. This bibliography centers on real, historical gardens. There is inevitably some consideration in the readings about horticultural theory, and about fictional gardens that appear in paintings, poetry, and prose. Such consideration helps to put the real gardens in the intellectual and artistic context of the early times, but the subject of imagined, literary gardens deserves its own bibliographic article. The bibliography here covers built gardens, although in every case the gardens have changed over time, or even disappeared. The literature cited in many cases uses old drawings, verbal descriptions, artworks, and other evidence to convey a sense of the early appearance of the historical gardens in question.

Broad Histories of European and World Gardens

It is useful to see early European gardens in light of overall, world gardening through the ages, as seen in Gothein 1928, Turner 2005, and Campbell 2019. The books cited in this section serve that purpose well, offering various kinds of broad overviews of gardens throughout history, sometimes including gardens of the East and West (see Thacker 1979). A significant portion of each text considers the same range as this bibliography; namely, European gardens from the late Middle Ages until the advent of English landscape gardening.

  • Allain, Yves-Marie, and Janine Christiany. L’art des jardins en Europe: De l’évolution des idées et des savoir-faire. Paris: Citadelles & Mazenod, 2006.

    Beyond the principal authors listed, the book includes contributions by Marianne Métais and Laurence Perez Huerta. This volume centers on gardens in Europe from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. It usefully includes gardens slighted in much of the broad histories of this kind, such as the gardens of Sweden, Russian, Austria, and Belgium. Most of the lavish illustrations show real views of the current states.

  • Campbell, Gordon. Garden History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780199689873.001.0001

    A useful overview of the subject, with a good deal on garden design from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century.

  • Goode, Patrick, Michael Lancaster, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, and Susan Jellicoe, eds. The Oxford Companion to Gardens. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

    A useful reference book, like a dictionary or compact encyclopedia, covering many aspects of world gardening over the course of history.

  • Gothein, Marie Luise. A History of Garden Art: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day. 2 vols. Edited by Walter P. Wright. Translated by Laura Archer-Hind. London and Toronto: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1928.

    An impressively substantial overview in words and images of global gardens through the ages, with the account beginning in antiquity and with the greatest focus on European gardens. Originally published as Geschichte der gartenkunst in 1914.

  • Impelluso, Lucia. Jardins, potagers et labyrinthes. Paris: Hazan, 2007.

    Very broad and diachronic history of gardens in the West, from antiquity to the modern era.

  • Mosser, Monique, and Georges Teyssot, eds. The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day. London: Thames & Hudson, 1991.

    A broad, extended essay, from the Quattrocento to Disneyland, with extended consideration of the several centuries from the Renaissance to the seventeenth century. English translation of Histoire des jardins: De la Renaissance à nos jours, published in 1991.

  • Thacker, Christopher. The History of Gardens. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

    This is a useful and confident walk through the history of gardens, from the earliest times through post–World War II gardens. There is a bit on Asia, but the book is mostly on the West and the traditions in Italy, France, and Britain.

  • Turner, Tom. Garden History: Philosophy and Design 2000 BC–2000 AD. London and New York: Spon Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203589335

    A broad history of world gardens, with a generous look at the medieval through Baroque gardens in Europe, including thoughts about the ideas and attitudes of designers and patrons.

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